Encouraging words aren’t enough. The government must put its commitment to upholding food standards into law proactively in the Trade Bill or Agriculture Bill.
01/11/2020: Agriculture Commission to be put on statutory footing
This move to allow greater scrutiny of trade deals is a positive step that could help build trust in the government’s approach to negotiations with other countries.
However, if the Trade and Agriculture Commission is to be put on a statutory footing, its membership must change so that the needs and concerns of millions of consumers who will ultimately judge the success of new trade deals are properly represented.
British people are overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining our existing food standards, and it’s vital that these are not undermined by post-Brexit trade deals.
22/07/2020: Bill passes without amendments we wanted to see in place
On Monday evening, the Commons voted to pass the Trade Bill without the amendments to uphold the UK’s high food standards and give MPs a role in scrutinising future trade bills in place.
MPs have approved the Trade Bill, with 335 votes to 243.— UK House of Commons (@HouseofCommons) July 20, 2020
The Bill will now be considered in the @UKHouseofLords.
Follow the progress of the Bill: https://t.co/WTnHSbqOkf
See how your MP voted on the Bill and amendments: https://t.co/U9Ns1LvgNx pic.twitter.com/7FSBXSIll9
While this isn’t the outcome we’d have hoped for, we’d like to thank the 25,000+ supporters who wrote to their MP, and the 208,000 who signed our petition.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on proceedings when the Bill goes to the House of Lords in the autumn, and we’ll continue to advocate both inside and outside of Parliament for the changes we believe we need to see.
17/07/2020: We still need action
Since the launch of our Food Standards campaign last month, more than 208,000 people have signed our petition, urging the government to protect food standards when the UK leaves the EU.
Currently, trading partners such as the US, are pushing us to accept lower-standard food such as chlorinated chicken, hormone-injected beef and vegetables riddled with pesticides. This must not be allowed.
The government has had an encouraging response, stating that it is committed to protecting the current high food standards enjoyed in the UK and that it has copied over existing rules from EU law that include food standards.
But this welcome commitment to uphold existing food standards has not been reflected in the Agriculture Bill or Trade Bill. There are also concerns that existing food law – including retained law – could easily be changed with little scrutiny.
Any risk to food law being nibbled away and weakened in any way would be unacceptable.
MPs have the chance to change this when they vote on the Trade Bill on Monday.
The Trade Bill is the chance for MPs and the government to firmly take the UK’s world-leading food standards off the negotiating table and give the reassurance needed by explicitly and clearly enshrining this commitment in primary legislation.
Following, any changes to food standards would then require fuller parliamentary scrutiny before being allowed.
What will the amendments Which? is supporting do for food standards?
Which? is supporting four amendments to the Trade Bill to help uphold our food standards.
These are (click to expand):
New Clause 4
This amendment proposes the Government puts its proposed negotiating objectives before Parliament for debate and approval before it begins new trade negotiations.
This would include the Government providing an impact assessment of food safety. This would be welcome as it would show any potential impact and/or considerations that need to be made for food safety as part of these negotiations and what the UK is seeking to achieve in a deal.
New Clause 7
This amendment would require all imported food to meet UK standards.
New Clause 11
This amendment would require imported agricultural goods to meet animal health and welfare, environmental, plant health, food safety and other standards which are at least as high as those which apply to UK produced agricultural goods.
This amendment would ensure that any regulations made under the Trade Bill could only be made if the trade agreement which the regulations would implement enshrines UK standards in legislation and adheres to UK standards of food production and food safety
Consumers want higher standards
Almost all (95%) of consumers think it is important that new trade deals guarantee that existing UK food standards are maintained. 73% of consumers think this is very important.
The consumers we surveyed also had strong opinions on the following:
Commitment from supermarkets
The vast majority of consumers we surveyed were against chlorinated chicken going on sale in supermarkets: just 3% of the consumers we surveyed were in favour of it being on sale, and unlabeled
Supermarkets, including Aldi and Waitrose, have committed to not selling produce that does not meet current standards. While this is welcome, so much food is eaten out of home – in cafes, restaurants and canteens – that just removing it from supermarket shelves will not be enough for consumers to be able to avoid it.
This is why it shouldn’t be allowed in to the country at all.
Everyone should still be protected by the same standards, wherever they shop for food.
Maintain trust in food
By adding in a commitment to upholding food standards in the Trade Bill, the government will reassure the public that the high food standards we enjoy now will be protected in future trade deals. This could also help earn public trust and support for trade deals.
Help us reach 250,000 signatures by the time the bill gets debated.
You can also write to your local MP to ask them to support these amendments to the Trade Bill in Monday’s vote.
How else will leaving the EU affect me?
The trade deals being negotiated between the UK and other countries will affect what goods and services you will be able to buy, their quality, their cost, what protections you have if something goes wrong, and more.